New evidence shows Alzheimers could be transmissible 17



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A study published this week has loaded more evidence onto the barrow of the debate that Alzheimers could be a transmissible disease, a terrifying concept for all of us.  Published this week in Swiss Medical Weekly, the study looked at 30 post-mortem brains to seek further support for the theory that was proposed in September 2015 by scientists and shows some signs worthy of further studies that transplant of cells could cause transmission of the horrifying degenerative disease.

The researchers looked at the brains of seven patients who had died of a rare degenerative brain disorder, Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease (CJD) in which some Alzheimer-type pathology was reported.

Decades before their deaths, the patients all received grafts of dura mater, a thick membrane that protects the spinal cord, taken from cadavers in order to treat a severe head injury or to repair the covering after surgery. The prions causing the disease, it seems, were brought with the transplant, which likely caused CJD to develop over time.

In five of the brains, the researchers saw evidence of Alzheimer’s disease as well—plaque-like buildups of a protein composite called beta amyloid slow the brain’s function, one of the defining characteristics of the condition. The patients had died between the ages of 28 and 63, generally too young to develop so much plaque buildup said medical reports.

When the researchers compared these brains to those from patients that had died of CJD but hadn’t received the dura transplants, they found that the non-transplant patients didn’t have the beta amyloid plaques. Those findings indicate to the researchers that the seeds for the beta amyloid might have come with the graft, along with the prions that caused CJD in the first place, which might have caused Alzheimer’s to develop.

These findings are in line with a similar study published in Nature in September.

The researchers emphasised in their study that the prions and plaques aren’t infectious, so CJD and Alzheimer’s couldn’t be transmitted under normal conditions. But the concern is that this evidence shows that Alzheimer’s can be transmitted through transplants. Though both studies have small sample sizes, the researchers believe these findings could help scientists better understand the underlying causes of Alzheimer’s, which could someday lead to improved treatments for the disease.

Is there history of Alzheimers in your family?  Do you worry about it?


Rebecca Wilson

Rebecca Wilson is the founder and publisher of Starts at Sixty. The daughter of two baby boomers, she has built the online community for over 60s by listening carefully to the issues and seeking out answers, insights and information for over 60s throughout Australia. Rebecca is an experienced marketer, a trained journalist and has a degree in politics. A mother of 3, she passionately facilitates and leads our over 60s community, bringing the community opinions, needs and interests to the fore and making Starts at Sixty a fun place to be.

  1. I guess a person goes into a rest home with it and before long most of the residents have it! Most people will not need a transplant in their life time so it is just scare mongering with the attached FB comments.

  2. This is such a sensational headline, families that have to deal with Alzheimers need all the support they can get and not people worried they might catch it. I can only hope that people read the article and understand it. There is nothing scary about it. I do not think any of your readers will have a brain tissue transplant from someone with Alzheimers.

  3. Is not unknow that if your parents got it, their children has a high chance to get it as like breast cancer in the family, diabete..
    This illness is on the dna/family blood ….

    1 REPLY
    • Yes I agree with u. Although it does jump a generation do I got told and also have family tree that points to that.

  4. I guess with any sort of transplant of human tissue or organs there is the risk of a genetic disorder or hidden condition being passed along. I remember reading about some deaths a few years ago of transplant patients who received organs from an apparently fit young accident victim, surgeons were at a loss as to why.

  5. I would almost be more inclined to believe that similar lifestyles would make it happen…that would be more likely, if the carer and patient eat the same food and develop the same pattern of living the risk may increase? The answer then is to get respite as often as allowed, and take good care of the carer as well as the patient. But this is a rather outlandish scary bit of sensationalism. Yes and a brain tissue transplant is crazy.

  6. I have said for years that there is no hope for me. Grandmothers on both maternal and paternal sides were afflicted, as was sister of maternal grandmother. On looking back over the few years before my father passed, I can also see that it was with him too. Definitely no hope for me

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  7. Starts at 60: If you are going to use a big word in your headline – perhaps you should check that it actually exists. There is no such word as ‘transmissible’. Correction should read: Alzheimers could be easily ‘transmitted’. You might like to check your dictionary and correct, please.

  8. I’ve always been convinced that Alzheimers is transmissible… viral? bacterial? something else. As an aged care nurse, I am quietly waiting for my turn

  9. I don’t think much of this article. My paternal grandmother died at 62 of Alzheimer’s and my mum has dementia. I’m over 62 and my mum is 90 and I can’t do anything about it if I get either. I always said if I was diagnosed I would swallow heaps of pills, but though mum has no short term memory, she is always happy and loves a laugh and still potters round tidying up and helping with dishes so I’ve had a change of heart…. I know some dementia residents are much worse though.

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